The Southern Baptist Convention’s leader on public policy issues claimed that environmentalists and President Obama are mostly to blame for oil devastation in the Gulf of Mexico.

Richard Land, head of the SBC’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, argued during the June 5 broadcast of “Richard Land Live!” that oil giant BP is only partially to blame for the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster and even defended BP’s handling of the disaster.

Land blamed “the environmental movement” for why drilling was being done in the deepwater site of the BP oil rig. He argued that “environmentalists have succeeded in rendering the Pacific and nearly all of the Atlantic coast off-limits to oil production.” He offered no condemnation of BP for deciding to drill there.

Land lamented that Obama placed a moratorium on new off-shore drilling and that there remains a ban for drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) in Alaska. Land claimed that drilling “would have done absolutely nothing to any of the wildlife” in ANWR.

Although Land criticized BP for having “no contingencies to deal with the catastrophic system failure,” Land downplayed BP’s culpability for the disaster by claiming that it was caused by “an amazing string of perfect storm engineering lapses.”

An investigative report by ProPublica and the Washington Post belies Land’s argument by documenting the numerous safety and environmental violations of BP, including falsifying inspection reports. Among the violations was environmental devastation caused from drilling in Alaska.

Land particularly defended BP against the criticism that has occurred since the disaster started, arguing that the real culprit is Obama’s administration.

“The railing against BP for its performance since the accident is harder to understand,” Land stated.

“The federal officials who rage against BP would like to deflect attention from their own role,” Land added, criticizing Obama administration officials for demonstrating “total utter malfeasance and lack of competence.”

Although Land gave BP leaders a pass for everything except not having a plan to quickly stop the leak, he strongly condemned the Obama administration’s handling of the situation. Land especially criticized federal leaders for criticizing BP.

“It shows you the level of incompetence – and I use that word advisedly – on the part of the Obama administration that as they’re sitting there watching this attempt to put this tent on the well that’s going to siphon off some of the oil, the Secretary of Energy said ‘but the oil’s still coming out.’ No duh! It was never going to take care of all the oil. … You would think the Secretary of Energy would know that, but evidently not.”

Land’s only praise for Obama was for deciding to “leave it to BP” to fix the leak “because BP knows more about it than anybody else.” However, Land then called it “a failure of presidential leadership” that there has not been “somebody in charge of mitigating the damage.”

During the broadcast, Land also promoted a Karl Rove column claiming the BP disaster is “Obama’s Katrina,” although Rove had previously defended George W. Bush’s handling of Hurricane Katrina. Land added that the BP disaster was instead more like “Obama’s Iranian hostage crisis” and shows “an incredible lack of leadership.”

Land also attacked Obama for not approving Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal’s request to build sand barriers. Land argued that as a result Obama “was not doing his job.” However, the request had already been approved before Land’s comments. Land also claimed the National Guard had not been deployed yet, which also was incorrect.

Recently, Russell D. Moore, dean of the School of Theology at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, authored a column taking a substantially different approach to the BP oil disaster. Moore called on his fellow conservative evangelicals to become stronger environmental advocates.

Brian Kaylor is a contributing editor for

Share This